Vall d'Hebron promotes a citizen science project with adolescents and Parkinson's patients

11/04/2024 - 14:52 h - Science Ajuntament de Barcelona

Illnesses have a direct influence on the mental health of the people affected and those around them. For this reason, the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) in the framework of the Caixa d’Eines programme of the Barcelona City Council’s Neighbourhood Plan and the Network Education Consortium, together with the scientific communication agency Eduscopi, has launched a citizen science project with the aim of improving the quality of life of people affected and, at the same time, fostering intergenerational relationships. The project is currently underway and focuses on people with Parkinson’s disease and on promoting empathy, knowledge of neurodegenerative diseases and scientific vocations among adolescents.

The project involves nine people affected by Parkinson’s between 45 and 80 years of age at different stages of the disease, three caregivers and 30 students in the 4th year of ESO at the Escola Coves d’en Cimany secondary school in Barcelona. In previous experiences, it has been shown that social relationships and interactions can lead to an improvement in psychosocial well-being, as well as in physiological and physical processes of people affected by the disease. As Dr. Silvia Enriquez, neurologist and researcher of the Neurodegenerative Diseases group at VHIR, says, “with this project we want to know what benefits interaction with young people can have for people affected by Parkinson’s disease and their families and to highlight the importance of human connection in the treatment”.

The meetings, four two-hour sessions held at the Carmel-Juan Marsé Library and at the Institute itself, have been designed by the students taking into account the different needs of the patients. In them, the participants take part in cooperative activities as diverse as making pastimes, origami, yoga, dance or magic performances. In addition to the group activities, an initial and final survey is carried out to assess the impact of the project on various aspects such as difficulties in daily activities, mood and personal perception of the disease. The results will be analysed by the students and the research team to draw conclusions and propose future improvements.

On the other hand, the initiative is also expected to be of benefit to the students. As it is a citizen science project with an apprenticeship, it is hoped to involve young people in real research and promote their scientific culture, as well as contributing to the improvement of their environment, offering support to those affected.

The project is part of a programme promoted by the Barcelona Neighbourhood Plan, the Institute of Culture and the Barcelona Education Consortium called Caixa d’Eines, which is committed to introducing artistic and scientific practices into the school curriculum, with the aim of reducing inequalities by linking formal, non-formal and community education. In the secondary schools in the Carmel district, this programme aims to make STEAM something experiential, close and accessible to students, broadening their horizons and offering new ways of learning and relating to their environment.